Posted on 20 Apr
Los Angeles-based interior designer and stager Sally Campbell, CEO of News From Nowhere-Land and Somesuch production, identifies as a contrarian, which has served her creative work well. Always leaning into unique designs that are fad-wary and timeless, she approaches each project with intentional attention to the audience, creating beautiful spaces that make people smile. Recently, Sally sold her own lovely home at 3774 Boise, which she staged to perfection. Among her other projects that are currently offered for sale and represented by Malyn Dahlin and Alice Cannington, she has staged 3754 Whitespeak, 5416 1/2 Village Green, and 7728 Wish, adding her signature touch with colorful moments and timeless furnishings.
Sally chatted with The Agency about her career, where she finds inspiration, and what homeowners can do to curate their own beautiful interior and garden design.
Tell me about your staging business and how you started in the interior design world.
My passion for design started when I was five years old. I loved designing my bedroom, but I only had one to design. So every six months I would make my big brother swap bedrooms with me so I could start afresh (why he put up with that I have no idea). Then, when I started my production company in London, Somesuch, I designed the office. Then I designed another office, then our house, then friends asked me to help them with their houses...and the rest is history.
In between other people’s houses, I kept buying and selling my own homes, so I could experiment, take more risks than I would with a client. Moving eventually became unsettling for my family, so when we moved to L.A. from London in 2017, I discovered staging. I love it because I get creative energy from every project—it’s fresh and new every time. A dream job for me. I then started helping my amazing friends who are real estate agents, Alice Cannington and Malyn Dahlin, with staging and my business took off. I now have a warehouse full of incredible furniture from original Hans Wegner and Eames to modern furniture like Hay. It’s magical.
What do you take into consideration when developing the design/staging for a room?
When starting a project, I like to understand the neighborhood and who we’re selling to.For me, design is a cultural gesture to the existing community. I add literature or pieces of art by artists that embrace the neighborhood and architecture.
When it comes to the genre of style, I like to mix it up while also paying respect to the architecture style. My goal is to make people smile when they are in a house, so I’ll try to sprinkle in some fun—it can be very subtle with a book or painting, or more obvious in a child’s bedroom for instance, where my current signature touch is a life-sized stuffed lamb or llama. It’s also worth noting that if kids love a house, the parents are more likely to love it too.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere—in gardens, stores, films, TV, fashion, friends’ houses. Everywhere I look I find pieces of inspiration.
What are some of your current favorite trends/styles?
I try to be timeless and avoid specific trends. It’s important to me that every piece of furniture I have will work stylistically forever, so I have a lot of vintage and antique pieces. For instance, I won’t buy a round mirror, I see those everywhere. I’m a bit of a contrarian, for better or for worse. I like to be original.
When designing, I try to create spaces that can be lived in for a very long time. If a client gets their house redesigned within four years, I haven’t succeeded at my job.
What are some of your go-to ways to spruce up a room?
Always rugs and art—they make a room. Art doesn’t need to be ludicrously expensive. Try checking your local galleries and artists. Presently, I’m obsessed with Hey There Projects, a gallery in Joshua Tree that shows the best new and existing artists.
If you’ve just bought a house and are feeling overwhelmed, just paint the walls white and live in it for a while. Spaces evolve and not all decisions need to be made immediately.
When it comes to interior design, where do you suggest homeowners splurge?
I splurge on my favorites—rugs and art, of course—and also special pieces of furniture. You don’t need to spend $15,000 on a sofa. Article, IKEA, HD Buttercup and others sell beautiful affordable ones. Decorate your sofa with some gorgeous cushions and a throw.
Buy beautiful and original pieces, like a coffee table, vintage rug, a painting, an antique chair, a beautiful dining table—stand-out pieces that are noticeably special and won’t get trashed by your kids or pets or parties.
I’m also a massive fan of light fittings. A Naomi Paul pendant or something fun like a yellow Flowerpot pendant by &Tradition can add character and bring a room to life. Or better still, shop at a mid-century store for an Italian original.
Do you have a favorite furniture brand?
No, I don’t. Every brand offers me something different. It might be something extremely expensive or an IKEA piece. For me, everything has value and a purpose.
What details should homeowners pay attention to when decorating their home?
It depends. If it’s your forever house, just go for it—it’s yours! Decorate it however you like. If not, be wary of fads. I see a lot of gold floral print wallpaper that was fantastic (and hugely expensive) in 2010 but looks dated today.
White is wonderful but don’t be scared of colour on walls. I often start with white as a blank canvas then get more playful as I get to know the house. If you bought a house with a kitchen that is dated but you can’t afford a new one, paint the cabinets a beautiful color like dark blue or green. It makes a huge difference.
Spring is here and people are looking to their yards for leisure and entertaining. Do you have any recommendations on furnishing your yard?
Because I’m not an L.A. native, the weather here still excites me. Therefore, I tend to get over-excited and dress an outdoor space as another living room or kitchen with tables and chairs, a lounge area with comfortable seating and a coffee table, and then chaise lounges or a daybed. An outdoor kitchen is a real treat too. Investing in landscaping was the best decision I made at my own home.
When it comes to colors, do you stick to a neutral color palette or do you like to go bold?
I go somewhere in between! I’m not a massive fan of the white on beige on white fad we’re seeing presently. Don’t get me wrong, I love white and beige and they have their place too, but I really like color. If you’re risk-averse, try using a rug, piece of art, accent chair, or cushions to add some color.
If you fancy going further and want color in a room, start with your bedroom. That way, if it goes wrong you’re the only one affected. My current bedroom is a very dark blue, and we love it. In my next project, I’m painting a ceiling yellow. In my experience color makes the space happier and always gets an incredible reaction. So, I say go bold when you can.
Visit Sally’s Instagram @newsfromnowhereland for more interior design inspiration.